Sunday, November 13, 2016

A Year of Writing

Recently, I blogged about my progress with blogging this year. Not only am I sitting on 330 posts on my blog, 251 of which are from this year (76%!), I'm currently participating in National Novel Writing Month. The goal is to write 50,000 words in the month of November; you can track your progress and stay in touch with writing buddies through their website, and attend "write-ins" to network with and encourage others.

I'm just past the halfway point in terms of word count (26,962 words) and I'm just a bit short of the halfway point plot-wise. Earlier this year, when I went to Wizard World Comic Con (see posts here and here), I attended a session for writers in which I learned about two different approaches to writing:
  • Discovery writing: Start with ideas about the plot, and just write; focus is on character development (Stephen King and George R.R. Martin are discovery writers)
  • Outline writing: Clear plan about entire novel; focus is on plot development (Orson Scott Card is an outline writer)
I've always been a discovery writer. I love sitting down in front of a blank page and just writing, seeing what words pour out. And I love how you can create a character, but rather than you telling the character what to do, he or she tells you what they should do. Being surprised by something you're writing is one trippy experience.

The problem is I've never finished a novel before, not for lack of ideas. I've written countless short stories and plays, and discovery writing seems to work well for those. But I realized if I wanted a good change to finish my book, I was going to need a different approach. So I outlined the story, figuring out the big events that need to happen and generating some character descriptions. But I left things pretty broad within each chapter. Essentially I had a map and a notion of where they should be at each mile marker (chapter), but the rest of the journey hadn't been written yet. What I did isn't really pure outline writing or pure discovery writing. It's a hybrid of the two.

Fortunately, I found a description of what I'm doing in the NaNoWriMo website. They use similar concepts to what I've described above but use different terms. Discovery writers are "pantsers" - writing by "the seat of their pants." Outline writers are "planners." And people who do a combination of the two are "plantsers."

The great thing about this approach is I can keep myself on track and keep writing even if I'm feeling kind of blocked. But I still leave things open to develop and my characters have already done things that surprised me. I even created a character in a scene on-the-fly and he added a major development that impacted one of my protagonists. All totally unplanned - it just kind of happened.

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